Bicycle Touring: Points and Tips

by Natalia Sokolova

So, the road has been calling for a while now and you’ve finally decided to jump on your bike and complete a bicycle tour. I wish it was as easy as simply jumping onto your bike and riding off into the sunset. Rather, there is a bit of planning and work to be done first. So before you pack your panniers and buy dehydrated meals, here’s what you should consider.

Ride Your Bike

Start riding your new bike a few months before your big trip. Ride your touring bike to work, to the store, to your doctor’s office. Pack your panniers full of groceries and see how it will feel to ride a fully loaded bike (for example, if you have front racks, your turns will have to be taken a lot wider and slower).

Now is the time to work out the kinks. You might need a new bike seat, maybe your chain skips when you switch gears or when you hit a bump, or maybe you keep hitting your heel on your pannier and it’s driving you insane. Figure out the problems before you set out on your journey. Also, let your body slowly adjust to your new bike. The last think you want is for your neck and back to cramp up on your first day.

Don’t Let Fear Control You

Sure, you’ve already mentally prepared for your journey, but as you get closer to the start date the horror stories may sink deeper and depper into your mind. I know I was scared when I first took off on a busy highway in the middle of nowhere, 10, 000 kilometres from home. Just remember that most cars and trucks are not out there to kill you. You are probably not the first cyclist on that particular route; someone else has done that cycling tour before you. Be cautious, but don’t be timid.

Choose the Best Route

Having said the above, do yourself a favour and check if there is a route with a shoulder and less traffic. If you are cycling across remote regions you probably will not have much of a choice in the road. Across Canada there is only one choice for much of Northern Ontario. Try to find a road with a shoulder just so your trip will be more comfortable. A few times on a long road with only a gravel shoulder I have veered off the pavement, which can be pretty dangerous if the ground is soft. Do your research. Some routes may be very scenic but mountainous and some routes may be very popular but on a busy highway. Choose the lesser of two evils but do it at home before you set off. You can always change roads during the trip but at least you’ll know your options.

Bring the Right Bike Tools

Weight and space is the biggest issue when packing for a biking trip. You will be carrying that with you all day long and you might regret bringing that extra-comfy but too-heavy sleeping bag as you climb a long hill. You might not need two adjustable wrenches or eight tubes. If you are in a remote area for most of your trip, bringing tools is very important. In fact, bringing tools is always important. Don’t rely on bicycle stores for your repairs, as you might not be in a 400-kilometre range of a bike store when you break spokes on your back wheel.

Eat and Drink a Lot

This goes without saying but you will be burning a lot of energy pedalling. If you are in a remote region, pack snacks and drinks to always have on you. The general rule is to drink before you get thirsty and to eat before you go hungry. If you stray from that rule you may start to lose your energy quickly and ruin a day of cycling.

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